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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Simi Wants Homeless Campers to Take a Hike

September 30, 1998|COLL METCALFE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SIMI VALLEY — Things may get tougher for Simi Valley's homeless population as the city plans to enact an ordinance that would prohibit camping within city limits.

City Council members unanimously approved the ordinance on a first reading Monday. If formally adopted after a second reading next Monday, the ordinance would go into effect in November.

"There are no appropriate places for people to camp in Simi Valley or any other urban area for that matter," Councilman Paul Miller said. "And with this we're not saying that we want the homeless to get out, but that we want them to find help."

Sponsored by the Police Department, the ordinance would prohibit overnight camping on city and private property unless permitted by the owner.

Police Chief Randy Adams said in a memorandum that the ordinance resulted from an increasing number of resident complaints about transients and is aimed toward increasing public safety.

"The Police Department regularly responds to complaints regarding criminal transient activity including thefts, obscene activity, loitering and campsites that are eyesores and health hazards," Adams wrote.

Although officials have no estimates of how many homeless people live in the city, police say officers have responded to more than 300 complaints from Simi Valley residents about transients in six months.

Local homeless advocates, however, said the ordinance is an affront and will hamper their efforts to help those who, by a painful turn of events, have found themselves without a roof over their heads.

"We were worried and we're sorry that it's had to come to this," said Jan Gageby, volunteer coordinator with the Samaritan Center, which assists the homeless. "What really is sad is that the ones who are going to be hurt are the ones who need a little help to get back on their feet."

Simi Valley is not the first Ventura County community to adopt stringent ordinances to keep transients at bay.

Ventura prohibits camping and storing personal items on public land and in flood plains. The city also has codes forbidding people to sleep in their cars.

Thousand Oaks has three ordinances that prohibit everything from camping on city land and vacant lots to sitting on a sidewalk.

Councilwoman Barbra Williamson said she had reservations about the law at first.

"We've already got so many laws on the books that I wasn't sure we needed another," she said. "But just because you're homeless, that doesn't give you the right to trample over the property rights of others. . . . What I'm hoping will happen is that these people will be told where they can get help."

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